Tag: readingchallenge

2020 Resolutions – Mid Year Review

Although it’s a little past the midyear mark, I knew I wanted to have a look at my progress towards my reading goals halfway through the year. It’s a good opportunity to see how well I am doing and to see if I need to make any changes over the coming months to achieve my goals.

If you need a refresher of my 2020 Resolutions you can find that post here, however, I will touch on the key points in this post.

 

Reading Goal #1 – Goodreads Challenge

I have set myself a reading goal every year since 2017. I like having the challenge of a certain number of books to read before the end of the year. Most years have been started off quite conservatively and I have revised my goal later… I didn’t want to do that this year. I also wanted to attempt to set a new record, even if it is only by a few books from my previous one.

Admittedly, this year isn’t as much of a roaring success as previous years. In part, that’s because I set myself a target that was actually going to be a challenge from day 1. In addition, I’ve also made some pretty big undertakings outside of reading and blogging. The most significant of these has been moving house. It’s a big task anyway, but the way covid-19 panned out, I ended up packing up, moving out and unpacking again all by myself. My parents really wanted to help and didn’t want me to have to deal with it all alone, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

Although I have moved now, I am still doing a lot of stuff with the new house. I’ve just spent the last week redecorating three rooms and I still have halfway to go. That’s not the only thing, however. When I set my goals at the beginning of the year, I didn’t even know that I was going to get sponsorship to sit exams relevant to my job. I hadn’t even considered it. I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity though.

Is my reading goal in light of the above ambitious? Yes. But is it unachievable? No. I think I can still do it. To date, I am 7 books behind schedule. It’s enough, but I could claw it back. Even if I don’t, I’m not going to kick myself over it. It’s still a lot of reading to do in an already busy period. Even if I manage to keep pace and still finish the year 7 books behind schedule, I’ll still complete the year having beaten last year’s record. It’s still something to be proud of!

 

Reading Goal #2 – Beat the Backlist

I feel this challenge has fallen off the wagon a little bit, but I have and will continue to try and read the earliest books on my TBR to beat the backlist. The full list of books I wanted to read by the end of the year is on my 2020 Resolutions post if you want to check out what they are.

To date, I have completed 5/25 books on the list. It doesn’t sound like much, but I think it’s fair to note that I have also started and DNF’d an additional 3 books on that list. At the beginning of the year, I was good to religiously ensure these were added to my TBR, but since moving house I’ve not been so good at it. I do have one of these books on July’s TBR, so it is still in mind to complete. I’m sure I could make more of an effort to step it up though. This might not be achievable by the end of the year, but so long as I am trying to read and take books off the TBR then it balances out the new ones I’m adding!

 

Reading Goal #3 – Borrow from my local library

Covid-19 firmly put a spanner in the works with this particular challenge as well. The library I have registered with and borrow books from is actually near to my work. I haven’t been going into work since mid/late March, so I’ve not had the ability to pop in even when they did re-open a few weeks ago! I did make an effort to use their digital library to see if they had copies of the books I was interested in, but unfortunately in every single case I looked, they didn’t have what I was after.

All being well, I should be going back into work soon and be able to make use of the library (and their physical collection) more. The lack of progress on this challenge to date is entirely circumstantial. Should we be in the unfortunate circumstance where covid-19 comes back, I will be back in the same boat and honestly, I won’t want to borrow during that time anyway. Sorry, hygiene comes first! I’m not stressing about this particular goal, I’ll be honest. My justification for this goal in the first place was to try to save some money for the house move, but I’ve managed just fine as it is.

 

So, that’s where I am up to with this year’s resolutions. What are your reading goals for the year, and how are you doing with them?

 

 

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Reading List – February 2020

January passed by in a whirlwind – I can’t believe I am here sharing my next monthly TBR already! Aside from one DNF, January was a good month for me! I managed to read 7 books in their entirety, as well as finish an audiobook from last year! I’m hoping for an equally productive February. I have already started this month’s TBR, so fingers crossed!

What am I reading this month? I have a number of blog tours lined up, as well as a couple more books on the list that will contribute to my Beat the Backlist challenge.

 

One – K. J. McGillick

Goodreads – One

A stolen life. A Faustian bargain. Prey becomes predator.

Azar Abed’s veiled memories of her childhood were too dark and traumatic to revive. Raised by the man who murdered her mother she moves through life numb and emotionally bankrupt. That is until her father goes one step too far. With the help of his business partner, Dr. Adrien Armond, her father implements a plan to steal her life to save his own. Their downfall? Her survival.

Her obsession to extract retribution leads her into a dark abyss of rage. Azar and her lover devise a plan to upend global economies but her need for vengeance compels her to take it one step further. Biological weapons of mass destruction are on her agenda and innocent bystanders become collateral damage. Would the few that see it coming have the resources to stop the plan already in motion.

 

One is the first book I have picked up this month… and with good reason! I’m taking part in theblog tour for this third instalment in the Path of Deception and Betrayal. On Saturday. Yep, it’s coming around quickly, although in fairness I’m making reasonable progress with it. I just read the previous book Two in a matter of days, so I’m sure I’ll have this read in no time!

I can’t wait to see how this particular series ends and how all the novels tie together!

 

The Mentor – Lee Matthew Goldberg

Goodreads – The Mentor

Kyle Broder has achieved his lifelong dream and is an editor at a major publishing house.

When Kyle is contacted by his favorite college professor, William Lansing, Kyle couldn’t be happier.

Kyle has his mentor over for dinner to catch up and introduce him to his girlfriend, Jamie, and the three have a great time. When William mentions that he’s been writing a novel, Kyle is overjoyed. He would love to read the opus his mentor has toiled over.

Until the novel turns out to be not only horribly written, but the most depraved story Kyle has read.

After Kyle politely rejects the novel, William becomes obsessed, causing trouble between Kyle and Jamie, threatening Kyle’s career, and even his life. As Kyle delves into more of this psychopath’s work, it begins to resemble a cold case from his college town, when a girl went missing. William’s work is looking increasingly like a true crime confession.

Lee Matthew Goldberg’s The Mentor is a twisty, nail-biting thriller that explores how the love of words can lead to a deadly obsession with the fate of all those connected and hanging in the balance.

 

Doesn’t this thriller sound fantastic? Well, I think so and that’s what matters! I am also reading The Mentor as part of a blog tour this month. This particular tour is a first for me, as I haven’t toured with Blackthorn Book Tours before.

I’m looking forward to delving into this sinister-sounding novel and finding out just how well the novel lives up the synopsis! I’ll be sure to let you know.

 

The Girl from the Workhouse – Lynn Johnson

Goodreads – The Girl from the Workhouse

Even in the darkest of times, she never gave up hope.

Staffordshire, 1911. Ginnie Jones’s childhood is spent in the shadow of the famous Potteries, living with her mother, father and older sister Mabel. But with Father’s eyesight failing, money is in short supply, and too often the family find their bellies aching with hunger. With no hope in sight, Ginnie is sent to Haddon Workhouse.

Separated from everything she has known, Ginnie has to grow up fast, earning her keep by looking after the other children with no families of their own. When she meets Clara and Sam, she hopes that she has made friends for life… until tragedy strikes, snatching away her newfound happiness.

Leaving Haddon three years later, Ginnie finds work as a mouldrunner at the Potteries, but never stops thinking about her friends in the workhouse – especially Sam, now a caring, handsome young man. When Sam and Ginnie are reunited, their bond is as strong as ever – until Sam is sent to fight in WW1. Faced with uncertainty, can Ginnie find the joy that she’s never had? Or will her heart be broken once again?

An emotional, uplifting and nostalgic family saga that will make you smile, while tugging on your heart-strings. Fans of Sheila Newbury, Kitty Neale and Sheila Riley will love this beautiful read.

 

I was drawn to signing up for the blog tour for this book as it is a completely new topic of historical fiction that I haven’t explored before. I am definitely diversifying more in what time periods I pick up (although I still have my favourites and I make no apology for it either). Books around the second World War tend to be my preference rather than the first, so it will make for an interesting change I hope!

 

Unborn – Rachel McLean

Goodreads – Unborn

America, 2026.
Feminism has been defeated.
Equality is a memory.
And abortion has been criminalized.

Three women find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Kate, carrying the child of a sexual predator. Grace, whose baby will be born with a fatal deformity. And Cindee: abused, abandoned and pregnant.

Their punishment will fit their crime.

Can these three very different women come together to fight an oppressive system and win their freedom?

Find out by reading Unborn, a chilling dystopia combined with a gripping legal thriller.

 

I hope my reasons for signing up to this blog tour are unusual. I imagine they will be. When I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read the book and share my thoughts on it as 1) I enjoy dystopian novels and legal thrillers and 2) I think I’ll have a unique perspective on the book.

Unborn is a dystopian novel that tackles the idea of a society that denies women the right to terminate a pregnancy. Abortion has been legal in the UK for over 50 years and around 45 in the US. What if I told you that where I live, abortion was made legal last year. The Isle of Man Abortion Reform Law only came into effect in May 2019 – prior to that, it was illegal. Yeah.

I’m sure you’ve already gathered I am going to have some things to say about that. You’ll have to wait for my review post for more.

 

City of Stairs – Robert Jackson Bennett

Goodreads – City of Stairs

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions — until its divine protectors were killed. Now, Bulikov’s history has been censored and erased, its citizens subjugated. But the surreal landscape of the city itself, forever altered by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it, stands as a haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched — along with her terrifying “secretary”, Sigrud — to solve a murder.

But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem, and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

A tale of vast conspiracies, dead gods, and buried histories, City of Stairs is at once a gripping spy novel and a stunningly original work of fantasy.

 

City of Stairs will (I hope) be the second book I read that will contribute to my Beat The Backlist challenge. I am trying to fit in at least two books a month that will go towards this challenge. Since I am trying to read 25 this year and I DNF’d one last month, I am going to have to squeeze a couple more in at some point though.

I really like the sound of City of Stairs – elements of it remind me a little of Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. I like to go back to fantasy novels after reading some different things. It’s by far my favourite genre. I couldn’t read it all the time like I used to; it gets boring. I do like to go back to it regularly though. I added City of Stairs to the TBR in January 2015. Five years is too long to take to get around to a book…

 

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Goodreads – Good Omens

‘Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.’

People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be sceptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. But what if, for once, the predictions are right, and the apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea?

You could spend the time left drowning your sorrows, giving away all your possessions in preparation for the rapture, or laughing it off as (hopefully) just another hoax. Or you could just try to do something about it.

It’s a predicament that Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon now finds themselves in. They’ve been living amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and, truth be told, have grown rather fond of the lifestyle and, in all honesty, are not actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse.

And then there’s the small matter that someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist…

 

I haven’t read a book by Terry Pratchett for months now! I love his humour and I have heard a lot of good things about this book! I’m going to be totally honest; I’m reading it because Terry Pratchett had a hand in it. I haven’t had the best experience with Neil Gaiman’s books in the past, but we’ll see how this combination works. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about it once I have read it! Do you think I should tag the authors in my review when it goes live?

A bit of a salty joke I know, but no author should be too big to think that getting tagged in reviews is beneath them. All publicity (especially free publicity) is good, right? For those that haven’t heard about it, there have been arguments on Twitter lately about the appropriateness of tagging authors in book reviews. One of these authors doesn’t want to be tagged in reviews. They obviously think they’re too good for it. The other is dead, so no prizes for guessing who I’m talking about!

That’s the list set for the month! I would love to get the chance to squeeze in another book if I can since I have set myself such a lofty reading challenge target. The beauty of it is that if I do get this far, I can pick up anything I want based on my mood! I do tend to be quite regimented in my book choice, but I do enjoy picking up something on a whim from time to time.

What books are you reading during February?

 

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New Years Resolutions and Reading List – January 2019

Happy New Year everybody! I would like to wish you all a fabulous 2019!

I’m not one for setting myself New Year Resolutions… aside from a reading goal. I find them difficult to stick to. That being said, I am setting myself two bookish and one personal resolution this year to see if I can do it: –

  • Reading Goal: 50 books
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books
  • No alcohol in 2019

Yep, you read that right! A lot of people are attempting dry January, but I’ve decided to step up the challenge. I can go a month without alcohol easily… I must do it at least six times a year without trying. Truth is, I’m not fussed. I only drink to be social. So, we’ll see just how much I miss it. I don’t think I will at all, but only time will tell.

As to my reading goals, I really ought to read more non-fiction. I last read a non-fiction book in November 2017 – over a year ago. Since I really like history, I expect that I’ll probably dip into this genre in order to complete the challenge. I’ll keep an open mind though. I have been known to read an autobiography or two in the past.

Last year I read 46 books, beating my target of 40 with about a month or so to spare. After I hit my target, I did lose a bit of motivation to read more. With that in mind, I have decided to increase my target to 50 books. The most I have read in one year is 60, however, I read 20 of those before my blog came into existence in April 2017. I don’t think that is achievable this year, but I’ll happily aim down the middle with 50.

So, which books am I going to read in January to get myself started on that goal? In previous months I haven’t set myself that many books to read in a bid to give myself more freedom. I’m not convinced it’s working though. January’s list is going to be a full one though because I have a number of blog tours coming up in the next couple of months.

 

The Road to Alexander – Jennifer Macaire

Goodreads – The Road to Alexander

This is a carryover from last year; I began reading this last month in an attempt to get ahead of myself. With personal matters the way they were, I’ve lost a lot of this advantage, but I’m still well on track to finishing this book in time for the tour mid this month.

 

Black Matter – G. D. Parker

Goodreads – Black Matter

I’m looking forward to reading this book as the synopsis sounds fantastic. I expect it will be a combination of a thrilling crime novel with a futuristic setting, which for me will be a shakeup on the books I normally read. I have read some brilliant crime novels recently, so I have high expectations for this one.

 

You Can’t Make Old Friends & Choose Your Parents Wisely – Tom Trott

Goodreads – You Can’t Make Old Friends

Goodreads – Choose Your Parents Wisely

You guessed it, another blog tour! This one isn’t until February, however, on that date I am reviewing three books in one post. I told you, I’m a very busy girl. This month I am going to read books one and two, with number three making an early appearance in next month’s list.

 

A Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin

Goodreads – A Clash of Kings

I recently re-read A Game of Thrones, beginning my mission to re-read all of the books before watching the final season of the show, due to air this year! Can something not come around quick enough and too quickly at the same time? I am excited but also gutted that this will be the end. I’ll be that person who binges a season every so often once it’s over, I bet. A Clash of Kings is quite a long book, so I am going to have to get my skates on!

Those are the books I am reading this month! Is anyone else re-reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series this year? As always, I would love to hear from you!

Review: Lady of the Rivers – Philippa Gregory

Good afternoon folks!! Here’s wishing you all a happy Friday!!!
Today I will be giving you my thoughts on the latest read I finished on Monday night (at a time verging on being socially unacceptable given I have to get up at 6:45am the next day) – Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory.
I am loving historical fiction at the moment; not only have I read some amazing books of the genre recently… turns out I have been buying quite a few this month too! To name a few, these include The Elizabethan World by Lacey Baldwin Smith, Mayflowers for November by Malyn Bromfield and just last night I treated myself to Eagles in the Storm by Ben Kane.
I tell myself repeatedly to chill the f**k out and buy fewer books, but most of the time I see them on offer, and who can refuse a bargain? It’s not like I am buying books I won’t read… so it isn’t a waste of money. That’s what I tell myself anyway!
GoodReads – Lady of the Rivers
Lady of the Rivers
So now I know why Philippa Gregory is a popular historical fiction writer. For me the biggest factor in whether I am going to be able to see a book from one cover to the other is writing style. If I can’t hack the style (Shakespeare and Dickens please accept my sincerest apologies), it’s unlikely I will finish it. Not impossible, but not likely either. I like to read books, not study and analyse them to death.
It goes without saying modern books are easier to read in terms of the language and grammar the author uses to tell the story. To take Shakespeare as an example, I do not get iambic pentameter. I can hear it when spoken (David Tennant is amazing at this I might add) but I cannot read it. Shakespearean plays are fantastic theatre – yet somehow I cannot translate the archaic terms into something meaningful unless I can see the emotions unfolding before my eyes, or read the text about six times over with the help of the wonderful internet to tell me what has happened.
I far prefer simpler writing styles for reading – especially with books that are taking you into a new timezone, society and culture. Both of my recent reads, River God by Wilbur Smith and Lady of the Rivers achieved this very well. There is no better feeling than getting lost in a book, investing yourself in the characters and hoping for the best for them throughout the conflicts and uncertainties they have to navigate. If the language the book uses is too different from my own, there is a resistance there and I can’t get into it.
Equally, some modern language I despise too. If a character was going on about their “feels” for their boyfriend or “spending time with the fam” – I want to punch them for being a lazy s**t for not pronouncing that one extra and evidently taxing syllable. I’m qualified to say this – sadly it is my peers that are using this language.
I have digressed. I apologise, but my point is this; this book is neither of these extremes. Lady of the Rivers is narrated from the perspective of Jacquetta, a young woman who navigates through the English court during the conflicts in the Hundred Years war. She is initially married to the Duke of Bedford, uncle to the King, and the marriage is in many ways political. Jacquetta’s heritage is believed to be descendant from a Goddess and the Duke of Bedford wishes to keep her pure and use her powers to foresee the outcome of the war with France.
After the Duke of Bedford’s death, Jacquetta longs to be loved and for the closeness of an intimate partner. She falls into the arms of the Duke’s squire, Richard Woodville and marries him in secret, without the King’s permission. They are as good as made destitute having to pay a fine and live purely off the land left to them, but their family thrives. The Woodville’s fortune changes when Jacquetta’s cousin marries King Henry VI. Richard proves himself to be an able soldier and commander; he is sent to France to hold Calais  after the loss of Normandy.
Henry VI proves to be an overly pious yet inadequate King, unable to make up his own mind about matters of state. As a result, there is much in-fighting between the members of his council who try to persuade him to their way of thinking.
A note of personal interest to me was when the Duke of Gloucester and his wife were tried for treason and sorcery against the King. The Duke was executed, the “witch” accused alongside them burnt and the Duke’s wife, having aided these two was imprisoned in Peel Castle on the Isle of Man until her death fourteen years later.
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Sunsets at Peel Castle are gorgeous to watch – as you can see.
Matters at court go from bad to worse as rebellions weaken the position of the King and ultimately the King’s health takes a turn for the worst. Queen Margaret has to take over and there is much resentment at a French woman ruling in Britain. The Duke of York, heir to the throne until the birth of a royal heir is excluded from court and events unravel in such a way that sparks the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses.
I read the book to give myself background to start the series spanning the period of the Wars of the Roses and I wasn’t remotely disappointed. The book is written in a remarkably approachable way. It is history – but you don’t get bogged down with facts. Having looked into it, the book is written very well in terms of being historically accurate, but the most important thing is that it is able to be enjoyed and entertaining. I never got the opportunity to learn British history like this at school, which to my mind is utterly stupid. It’s my country’s history. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to learn in other ways than through formal education and I hope there are other people out there of the same opinion as me. Every day is a school day, they say.
I would be inclined to agree.

Review: A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

My first thought having read the first chapter of this book was:

“Right, so what the fuck did I just read?”

 

A Clockwork Orange
GoodReads – A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is written from the perspective of Alex, a teen who spends his time away from school by terrorising the local neighbourhood. It’s safe to say, he’s a bad egg. When he isn’t doing that, he is usually in his room deep in the peaceful abyss of classical music. He narrates his tale in the language that he uses when with his crew and fellow teens of the book; it is a confusing form of slang with Russian being a heavy influence.

Our pockets were full of deng, so there was no real need from the point of view of crasting any more pretty polly to tolchock some old veck in an alley and viddy him swim in his blood while we counted the takings and divided by four, nor to do the ultra-violent on some shivering starry grey haired ptitsa in a shop and go smecking off with the till’s guts. But, as they say, money isn’t everything.

If you are anything like me, you would probably have been scratching your head at this point, but as you read on you begin to work out the meaning of the obscure words. Some are less obvious than others, trust me. The above caption from the book should give you an idea of the attitude of the teens, and the older characters of the book we meet indicate that this attitude is wide-spread. A lot of people fear to walk the streets at night, frightened of each of the gang leaders and their “droogs” (that’s friends, to you and I). Those who don’t fear the streets will wish they hadn’t ventured out.

When we meet Alex it is apparent he is already a person of interest by social services, and much as the title foreshadows, he always ends up on the same path of crime and anti-social behaviour. The law catches up with Alex when he becomes responsible for the death of an elderly woman, and as a result he is sentenced to fourteen years in prison. After two years he kills a cell mate who tries to get too “friendly” with him – I find it ironic that as a person he would think nothing of such behaviour if it were him committing the act, but it being done to himself is an entirely different story.

I have digressed; after this Alex is put forward for a program designed to reform individuals like him in as little as two weeks. This ultimately becomes a highly controversial method of treatment as Alex, being “reformed” (or mentally scarred through a cruel form of torture if you ask me) is released back into the new world. He struggles to adapt to his new life, feels rejected by his parents and is no longer able to love classical music as a result of the “treatment” he received. Much again in line with the concept of clockwork, once out he finds himself subjected to beatings from the police and subjected to being treated as if he is on the bottom rung of society.

He ultimately attempts to commit suicide. Whilst he doesn’t succeed in this he frees himself of the conditioning of his mind – he can listen to classical music and his thoughts venture into the desire to commit violent acts again. Does this make him “normal” again? Who can say definitively. There is wrong and there is right, but equally there are so many shades of grey in between, and that is where we all find ourselves… somewhere between the goal posts of the “holy saint” and “spawn of the devil”.

The book is an interesting read in that it highlights a number of issues in the justice system. Whilst ethically no treatment like Alex endured could be practiced now, it raises questions as to how far we can go in order to guide people to behave in a manner defined be society as acceptable. At the end of the book Alex raises the point as to what he could do were his son to behave in the same way, and his son after him etc… like clockwork.

Sadly, it is equally apparent that society shuns these individuals regardless of reform or punishment just as rigidly.

 

Review: Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien 

I would just like to wish everyone a pleasant weekend from over here, in the not so sunny climes of the island upon which I live. As I am typing this, the view outside my window is far less picturesque than the rolling, lush green hills of the Shire, but never mind. For what any of us lack in gorgeous countryside and dazzling sunshine we have in imagination!!
It’s a good job really… We only get a couple of weeks a year that can constitute as a summer so we take whatever we can get!
Moving along, I wanted to share with you my thoughts as to my latest read, being the last installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Return of the King. Admittedly I was apprehensive about finally reading this book; I was concerned that it wouldn’t live up to the hype around it. I think that is a real danger with any book, film or TV program when it becomes so popular.
 

GoodReads – Return of the King
I was glad to see that a lot of my time wasn’t wasted in the set up of where Gandalf and company left off in The Two Towers. I was concerned that this wouldn’t have led to anything particularly consequential given that I would argue this was the lesser important side of the two perspectives we read. Here we get to see the raw power of Mordor and the vast numbers fighting for Sauron.
I don’t know about anybody else, (with the exception of my dad, as I’ve discussed this with him) but I found this last book to be really dark, and it made it difficult to read; like someone condemned takes their next step more begrudgingly to their doom, each page turn was more difficult than the last. I was determined to finish. I waited with bated breath for events unfold, hoping against hope that little Frodo and Sam made it!
I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book, but what I will say for its difficulty to read (that’s just one – well two opinions anyway) it is spectacular. It was worth the perseverance and I was not disappointed by the end. It’s a little sad, but it felt like it ended as it should have, even though you would never have anticipated it in the beginning.
Now I’ll have to catch upon the films, because I am a firm believer that the books are better and must be read first. I have made a few exceptions:

  • War & Peace – because I would never have understood the book without watching it first
  • A Handmaid’s Tale – I did actually try the book a few years ago but didn’t finish it
  • Game of Thrones – purely because I don’t have a choice and I’ll be damned if I get behind! I’m sure there are plenty of people who agree with me on this one!

That’s all for now guys! I’m presently half way through reading Raymond E Feist’s first installment in the Riftwar Saga, Magician. This is a re-read from a few years ago, as I have the next two in the series to read but admittedly I’ve forgotten what happens!
This has also brought my round to thinking about having a tidy up. I need one comprehensive reading list, so I’m going to be tidying up my TBR “pile”. I’ve found a lovely book tag dedicated to the task which should make the task of deciding easier! I look forward to seeing you then!
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Reading List: July 2017

As if July is here already?! The year is flying by… it’ll be Christmas before we know it!
No seriously, it really will. Hate me for saying it as much as you wish…
 
Let’s tactically cast away those worries for another day. The most planning ahead I am doing extends as far as the end of July and working out how many books I can cram into the month… so without further ado here is the list for my July reads:-
 
The Last Wish – Andrzej Sapjowski
The Last Wish
GoodReads – The Last Wish
I first came across the character of Geralt and the concept of the Witcher through the first game of the series. Admittedly, I haven’t played too much of it as my laptop is getting somewhat ancient compared to modern tech and it doesn’t even run it very well, but I know enough of the character as a foundation for the book. I’m being adventurous for me as this will be the first book I read from the Polish writer too, so fingers crossed I fall in love with this one and that’s another series to add to my TBR!
 
Stardust – Neil Gaiman
Stardust
GoodReads – Stardust
I have heard amazing things about Neil Gaiman. He has also co-written books with other authors I love so whilst I have not read any of his books yet, I’m trusting Terry Pratchett in that he recognised a good author when he saw fit to write Good Omens with him. They were also good friends if I recall the documentary I watched about Terry earlier this year. This will be another first for me.
 
Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King
LOTR Return cover
GoodReads – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
I cannot wait to finish this trilogy… I recently finished “The Two Towers” and absolutely loved it. Tolkien’s writing isn’t the easiest to read if you aren’t in the mood – one lapse of concentration can get you lost; equally, he can have you completely enraptured in the world of Middle-Earth! I’ve managed to steer clear of the books, films and my equally fanatical friends so I don’t actually know how it ends – I’m probably one of a minority of the population! Not for long…
 
Magician: Apprentice – Raymond E Feist
Magician Apprentice
GoodReads – Magician: Apprentice
This is actually going to be a re-read for me. I must have initially read this book maybe three or four years ago – I cannot recall. I remember I was living with my parents still, but that is about all. It is such a lengthy book and I have had the next two in the series to read for years as well, but I can’t move onto those because I genuinely don’t recall what happened in the first one…
Oops! I was obviously paying a lot of attention, wasn’t I?!
 
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
A Clockwork Orange
GoodReads – A Clockwork Orange
I remember seeing this in a guide-book of books to read before you die; it’s only when I saw one of the versions of the book cover again I recognised it! I truly don’t know what I’ll make of this one – it tells the tale from the perspective of Alex, a 15-year-old boy institutionalised. It discusses morality and freedom, and the effect of “reforming” these individuals. It isn’t the sort of thing I would automatically pick up, but I’m trying to broaden my horizons and so it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
 
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid's Tale
GoodReads – The Handmaid’s Tale
Has anybody else been watching the series on Channel 4?! If not I implore you, even if you don’t like the book, or books in general, please give it a try. There have been a few classic books which have made it onto the TV screen, in an attempt to target the likes of my generation, including War & Peace on the BBC last year. All I will say for the last scene of the last episode aired on Sunday just gone; I’m glad I didn’t have to watch that whilst living with my parents… parents and “intimate” scenes are just completely awkward.
Normally, I don’t watch things before I read the books. I have actually tried this book in the past and didn’t get on with it. I think it is a maturity thing now that I can appreciate classics more so I’m going to re-try this one.
 
So there you have it – I hope you look forward to the reviews as much I do reading these!
Until my next review, happy reading!
Rebecca  🙂

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

GoodReads – To Kill A Mockingbird

Tom Robinson’s a coloured man, Jem. No jury in this part of the world’s going to say, “We think you’re guilty, but not very,” on a charge like that. It was either straight acquittal or nothing.
Atticus Finch

To Kill A Mockingbird is undoubtedly one of the most influential books of all time in highlighting the racial inequalities known especially within southern states of America. Harper Lee has won numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird and a further book, Go Set a Watchman was published in 2015, some 55 years later.
I’ll be perfectly honest, this book isn’t at all what I expected. I hadn’t even realised that the story was narrated from the perspective of two young children until I actually opened the book. Truthfully I didn’t think I would get on with this, but actually it was perfect.
Jem (Jeremy) and Scout (Jean Louise) have been raised in the small, largely peaceful town of Maycomb by their father, Atticus Finch. Atticus is a lawyer by profession, but when Atticus takes on his biggest case there is much controversy and trouble for the Finches.
The story is narrated by Scout, who is the tender age of nine in that fateful summer of 1935, in which Tom Robinson is on trial for the rape of a white woman; and her father Atticus is defending him. As I mentioned above, I wasn’t confident that I would like the way the story is narrated by a child, but it is done very effectively. I was wrong to doubt.
Whereas adults quite often are prejudiced and are willing to turn a blind eye to what they know is wrong, children on the other hand are blank canvases. The world is black and white – they haven’t yet learned to see the shades of grey we are willing to paint in between depending on what suits us. They also ask a lot of questions. We’ve also come across those kids, you know the ones… that say anything that comes to their mind. Apparently as I kid I embarrassed my parents by declaring loudly at a supermarket checkout that it smelled very badly right behind the culprit – otherwise known as the Great Unwashed since.
Shameless. My parents are able to laugh about it now. It was true… I just wasn’t afraid to say it.
This to my mind is in direct contrast to the attitudes of adults, who are to willing to allow such segregation and injustice to happen, and it is refreshing to hear people asking the right question – why. Atticus is a fantastic character, who implores his children in times of difficulty to walk “in the other person’s shoes” to try and teach them about perspective. Atticus is like a father to anyone and everyone, and he has many lessons to teach us all. The struggles of morality and conscience also afflict him; despite fighting a losing battle, he couldn’t sleep at night if he didn’t defend the man.

There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads – they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.

Thankfully the general attitude is society is a little better than it used to be, but we have a long way to go. Fear sets in deep. What is said out in public and that behind closed doors can be very different.
Racism makes me angry. Sure, there are times when we can’t help but make prejudgements –  it’s part of our natural survival instincts. It is when these prejudgments are made without cause and we act negatively towards that person (directly or indirectly) – that is what is disgraceful.
I hope through education we an break this awful cycle; if all children had parents like Atticus Finch the world would be a much better place.
 

Review: The Gunslinger – Stephen King

Hi! So we are fast approaching the end of June and that makes us halfway through the year already!! Now isn’t that scary…
As promised in my last post, here is a review of The Gunslinger, the first installment of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Before this, I have only read one other book of King’s, being The Green Mile (I’ve decided this is my all-time favourite book), so I was curious to try some of his other works.
The Gunslinger takes a very Western/Apocalyptic style. We learn about Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger, whilst he seeks the man in black, following him through a quaint little town and expansive desert; danger always looming over him and any that happen to accompany him. The other somewhat prominent characters are Alice, a bar maid, and Jake, a small boy from New York city. The Gunslinger has not met these individuals by chance; the man in black has made sure of that.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the book at first. You are drawn in by the Gunslinger describing his path and you discover he is tracking somebody, described only as the man in black. Very ominous sounding, right? You find out he is his arch-nemesis. Are you biting your nails in anticipation yet? I was.
Then for me when The Gunslinger met Alice it went a bit flat for a while for me. Why, I hear you ask? Because to my mind, if the Gunslinger had been chasing after his nemesis for so long and found himself closer than ever to catching him, WHY WOULD YOU STOP? He had his fill of all his needs, (and I really do mean ALL of them), so then why wouldn’t he carry on? Alas he didn’t, but resulted in some mean shooting action so I shouldn’t complain really. He isn’t called the gunslinger for nothing!!
I didn’t mind so much when Jake came along, as he journeyed with the Gunslinger so progress was always being made. At this point we lose a little of the mystery of this gun wielding, gun flipping dead shot as we discover more about his upbringing and training as a boy. We learn he is the last Gunslinger, yet equally see the human side of him in his love of Jake and the lengths he will go to in order to protect him.
Once Roland leaves Tull the book really picked up for me. Put it this way, I started the book on Thursday night, read some more Friday when I wasn’t at work and I finished it on Saturday afternoon. Despite the “slow” start, I loved it overall and it gets a 4* rating from me. I can’t wait to continue the series!
I also discovered not too long ago that this is being released as a film in the US in November this year, starring Idris Elba as the Gunslinger himself. I couldn’t be happier about this – if anyone has seen the TV series “Luther” (in which Idris Elba plays a slightly unconventional police detective) I think you will agree with me that he is perfect for the role.
That isn’t for another five months yet and not even in the UK, so I’ll have to hold my horses. In the meantime, there is lots of reading to do! My next read, which incidentally I have also managed to get through far quicker than expected is To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I was expecting this to be the last book I squished in this month as I hadn’t originally planned this in by June TBR, but turns out I was as keen as mustard and got through that too!
That being said, I really am squeezing just one more book in before the end of this month – Animal Farm by George Orwell. After this  quick spurt of classics any followers who happen to be fantasy readers will be delighted to know the next three books are of that genre at least. I’m going to publish a full list shortly so watch this space!
Rebecca   🙂
 

Review: Small Gods – Terry Pratchett

Hi guys!

So I wanted to add this little section as we have something to celebrate – I have now achieved reading 30 / 60 books of my challenge with about a week to spare, and that includes having read some epics so far!

My review of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger will follow in the next couple of days; there’s no rest for the wicked as I have started what was the first book on my July List, being To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’m hoping to sneak this in before the end of the month to give me a head start.

I was dubious when I upped my target from 20 to 60 this year but I’m more confident than ever that I can achieve it, so fingers crossed.

Thanks for everybody who has been supporting me and listening to my impassioned rants about books at home… I know none of you particularly share my love to the extent I do. Thank you to all of my followers too; I hope that you enjoy my reviews and I would appreciate any feedback you can give me. I only strive to improve for you all 🙂

Thanks guys!

***************

So you guys have probably guessed that I have become a Pratchett fan somewhat, as I have read and am gracing you with a review of the next book in the Discworld series, Small Gods.

 

Goodreads – Small Gods

Just because you can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it’s a miracle.’ Religion is a controversial business in the Discworld. Everyone has their own opinion, and indeed their own gods. Who come in all shapes and sizes. In such a competitive environment, there is a pressing need to make one’s presence felt. And it’s certainly not remotely helpful to be reduced to be appearing in the form of a tortoise, a manifestation far below god-like status in anyone’s book. In such instances, you need an acolyte, and fast. Preferably one who won’t ask too many questions…

 

My Thoughts…

I have found through reading Pratchett’s books that they often have some underlying message, often by parodying life and our everyday struggles or alternatively, other literature; Equal Rites addresses the issue of gender equality, Wyrd Sisters parodies the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Moving Pictures is a humorous take on Hollywood and the power of media.

Small Gods I think is no exception, introducing the idea that the power of God(s), one or another (there are thousands on the Discworld) are relative to the number of believers they have. In a way can I get behind that idea. I would truly be concerned however if God, Allah, Thor, Loki, Apollo etc all sat in heaven throwing dice and using us mere mortals as pawns for some game we don’t understand the rules of. As well as his ability to address these topics – Pratchett has an extraordinary sense of humour to do it with!

We experience this tale from the perspectives of Brutha and the small god Om. Om was once a powerful God, however true belief in his powers dwindled away as the Church raised in commemoration to him established it’s own hierarchy and the struggles within take precedence instead of the reverence to Om. Acolytes worship out of fear from the Quisition, who torture and kill any man believed to be sinful. The Quisition can NEVER be wrong as Om wouldn’t lead them to doubt the faithful…of course. Please note the sarcasm here.

Om finds himself manifested as a tortoise and sets out to getting himself heard among his “believers”. His only true believer is Brutha, a mere Novice of the church. Brutha attracts attention to himself with the Quisition and upon discovery that he is Om’s Prophet – the Chosen One, he lands himself in a dangerous predicament with the higher powers of the Church.

Corruption in the church is also an issue which is brought up, as the local population with the help of Om attempt to dipose Vorbis, the head of the Quisition with whacky schemes of a million-to-one-chance odds, so it just has to work… right?! Well, nothing ever goes exactly to plan, but the Discworld population are adaptable if nothing else.

This book has some real laugh-out-loud moments, and although I wouldn’t say it was in my top favourites of Pratchett’s Discworld novels, it still holds its own. I’m not a religious person at all, but maybe this would have better resonance with somebody who is? I can’t say for sure, but I did enjoy it nonetheless.

Here’s one of my favourite quotes from the book, which I think says a lot of my opinion when it comes to politics:

The Ephebians believed that every man should have the vote. Every five years someone was elected to be Tyrant, provided he could prove that he was honest, intelligent, sensible and trustworthy. Immediately after he was elected, of course, it was obvious to everyone that he was a criminal madman and totally out of touch with the view of the ordinary philosopher in the street looking for a towel. And then five years later they elected another one just like him, and really it was amazing how intelligent people kept on making the same mistakes.

As mentioned above, a review of the first installment of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger will be posted in the next couple of days. I’ll also be publishing my July reading list soon so please stay tuned!